• Stephen Whitehead

    Posted in category Opinion by Stephen Whitehead on 13/02/2013

    Championing a UK success story – making growth sustainable

Today’s Bank of England report gives grounds for cautious optimism on the economic outlook. But we cannot be complacent as we know from bitter experience that growth is fragile.


There is a role for us all to play in making sure that welcome signs of growth are supported and sustained. The UK pharmaceutical industry is at the leading end of this country’s efforts to pull the country out of recession through sustaining a vibrant and innovative research community and advanced manufacturing expertise. I am incredibly proud of the contribution that the industry makes.

The UK is in a tough global race to attract investment and compete with other economies across the world. Investment is highly mobile and one of the key planks of the Government’s growth plan is to make sure that the UK is one of the best places in the world to invest and operate. For our industry, the Prime Minister himself has expressed his determination that “this country becomes the best place in the world to invest and innovate in life sciences”.1

The contribution that the UK pharmaceutical industry makes is absolutely crucial to sustaining growth, and some facts put this into context:

  • With £4.5 billion of investment per year in R&D, or over £12 million per day,2 the pharmaceutical industry invests more in R&D in the UK than any other industrial sector3
  • Our industry employs around 67,0004 people directly in the UK – around a third of these are in highly skilled innovative R&D jobs.

But the business environment in the UK is very challenging. The UK’s global share of clinical trials has fallen in recent years. Unfortunately, some companies have found that they have to close manufacturing and research facilities because of the business environment in the UK. And, innovation in the UK is more and more challenging – the UK is slipping down the table in terms of the national origin of the leading 100 global medicines by sales. We must reverse these trends if we are serious about maintaining the UK’s position. 

With the UK’s strong science base, an innovative pharmaceutical industry and the enormous potential of the NHS as an engine for research, the UK is in a strong position to lead on the development and delivery of innovative medicines, bringing them to those patients who need them.

Failing to nurture such a valuable industry will, however, make global pharmaceutical companies think twice before investing here to support jobs and the economy and crucially, before launching the most modern medicines. As I wrote last month we are looking forward to working closely with the Government over the coming months to get this right for the economy and for patients.

Stephen Whitehead
ABPI Chief Executive


  1. Rt Hon David Cameron MP, Global Health Policy Summit, August 2012
  2. The many faces of innovation - A report for the ABPI by the Office of Health Economics, March 2012
  3. ONS UK Business Enterprise Research and Development, 2010
  4. ONS Annual Business Inquiry, Sections C – Manufacturing, Release Date 16/11/2010
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